Sub-adult Cape House snake, B. capensis.
Latin Name: Boaedon capensis, fuliginosus, maculatus & lineatus.
Length: Female African House Snakes average out at 3-4ft males generally reach 2-2.5ft but 4-6ft females are noted in some Eastern localities of the capensis species.
Ease of Care: Beginner upwards, excellent starter snake.
Distribution: House Snakes occur in all of sub Saharan Africa, this species is often found in close quarters with humans - feeding on the rodents & pests that occur near human waste.
General Notes: House Snakes make wonderful pets or attractive display animals, ideal first snakes for the aspiring keeper, and a wonderful snake for the more experienced keeper also, relatively easy to breed in captivity and many new wonderful morphs and subspecies becoming more readily available in captivity these snakes are perhaps one of the best all-round captive snakes.
House Snakes, being of such a manageable size can be housed quite happily in a vivarium of 2 ft x 1ft in size as a bare minimum. the substrate can be a fibrous material or can be newspaper/reptile carpet etc. Should you choose to use fibrous substrates, there should be around 1 inch of the chosen substrate in the enclosure, I suggest aspen bedding, I have found that house snakes will often burrow in their enclosures if given the opportunity. A hide should be provided on the warm end of the enclosure, this should be large enough that the snake has ample room to fit in, but not too large that it cannot feel comfortable. A moist hide is necessary, this should be on the cool end of the enclosure, I use a 2 litre ice cream tub that has been emptied and cleaned. a 2 inch hole is cut into the lid of the tub & it is then half-filled with moist sphagnum moss/fertiliser & pesticide free soil or Vermiculite. Moist hides are extremely beneficial providing the high humidity that aids in the shedding of the skin, gravid female House Snakes will also lay their eggs there. A water dish should be provided, this should be cleaned on a daily basis - all water should be treated with a chlorine neutralising solution, these can be purchased from pet stores, Wild Caught/Captive Farmed or newly purchased specimens should be given an electrolyte supplement in their water, this helps to keep them hydrated & settle them into captivity - always use the guidelines stated by the manufacturer. Foliage in the form of a plastic plant should be provided, house snakes will clamber over them & hide under them & it is beneficial for giving them something to do & help them to fight boredom - some foliage is also visually pleasing to whoever is looking. A branch or some rocks should be provided for climbing & to aid shedding, these can be purchased from pet stores or collected from outdoors, drift wood makes an excellent attraction, all items for the vivarium that are collected outdoors should be boiled thoroughly, this kills any mites/bacteria that are in/on the particular item. Any rocks/branches etc should be held in place firmly & safely - ensure there is no way that the snake can get crushed.
Heating & Lighting
House snakes require a basking area of 30°C & cool side of 20-25°C should be provided. Heating can be provided by an under floor heat mat on one half of the vivarium these should be thermostatically controlled to ensure that they do not overheat. Never use hot rocks, snakes often wrap themselves around them and are burnt. You can also heat your house snakes vivarium with a heat lamp, ensure this too is controlled to heat only to 30°C - should you choose to use this ensure that the snake cannot get close enough to it to wrap itself around it and get a burn. House Snakes are a nocturnal species however some daylight excursions are not uncommon. A photoperiod of 12 hours day/night is easily achieved if the vivarium with which they are housed is help in a room which is lit by natural sunlight - never put the vivarium where it is hit by direct sunlight, this causes it to overheat, subsequently killing the snake. No UV radiation is required by this species & it is not suggested you provide it with any UV radiation. Feeding
These Snakes are known for not being fussy at all, they eat most things given to them - although this is an upside it is also a downside since these snakes rarely refuse food, keepers may tend towards overfeeding and thus obesity occurs, this in turn causes health risks for the snake in mention. Male House snakes may not feed very often, in my experience females only refuse food in the late stages of the gestation period or when they are ill. Due to having such a strong feeding response it is recommended you feed separately & with long feeding tongs. They should be offered a food item once a week, the food item offered should be large enough to make a bump in the thickest part of the snakes body. Don't test how large a food item the snake can fit down there, this can cause various complications & likely, the snakes eventual death.
House snakes are fantastic snakes they rarely show aggression - as youngsters they can be a little nippy (as with all young animals) but tame down very quickly - I have hatched & dealt with more than 40 juveniles, none have bitten me. Don’t get too comfortable with a young house snake - they are very fast and in a sudden fright they can take off with great haste. When House Snakes smell food they go into a "feeding frenzy" and anything that moves can and will be bitten - a feeding bite is the worst bite you could take as the snake will bite, hold on and wrap itself around you & constrict - it can be very difficult to get the snake to let go. CF/WC animals are said to be much more interested in fleeing from you as opposed to biting, but there is a higher risk of such defensive actions.
Breeding these snakes is not a particularly difficult job to do, all you really need is a male and a female!
Males should be at least 100 grams before breeding and females at least 300 grams. Introduce the male to the females enclosure, shortly you’ll see the male “twitch” alongside the females side, if she’s responsive then he will align himself to insert his hemipenes and mating occurs.
a month later the female will start to swell in the bottom half of her body, this is the eggs forming, a moist egg laying box with substrate sphagnum moss or chemical free compost should be provided. The female after around 53 days will go into shed, this is her pre-lay shed, 7-10 days after completing this pre-lay shed the female will lay her eggs. After the pre-lay shed you may also wish to remove the water dish and replace it with a smaller, shallow dish as house snakes often lay eggs in their water bowls. The eggs may be between 5 & 20 in number, these shoul
d be removed and incubated at 80-85°F - humidity around 70% humidity problems seem to occur commonly, this presents as the eggs beginning to dent & cave in, the best way I have found to solve this problem is to cover the eggs with a moist sphagnum moss - you should never allow standing water to touch the surface of the eggs, this causes the embryo within to drown & die. If all goes well, it will be roughly 60-80 days before eggs should hatch. It is reported that House Snake eggs can hatch at temperatures of 90°F. Females from this species tend to store sperm & shall lay up to 6 clutches a year from just one mating! Remove hatchlings from the incubator & raise individually, hatchlings should be offered pinkie mice a few days after their first shed - in my experience, sadly, juveniles don't quite have the feeding response of the adults, there are several methods that can be used to get them feeding:
- Dip pinkies in Tuna Brine.
- Scent the pinkies on other rodents, Rats are recommended. This has been the method I have found works on occasion.
- Don't give the snakes water for 1 or 2 days and then offer a pinkie saturated with water.
- Use a freshly Killed pinkie.
- Force feeding.
- Live pinkies are also rumoured to be a good starter, however feeding live can cause complications getting them onto defrost mice in the future - it is only suggested as an extreme last resort, it is illegal or morally unacceptable in many places.